Tips & Tricks
- June 7, 2016
Apple Pay is a pretty useful feature, especially when you keep your phone handier than your wallet, and you use it in tandem with other Wallet features such as scannable loyalty cards. That said, the NFC payments process is not always flawless, especially when you have to fumble with your iPhone to hit the Touch ID sensor while also lining it up properly with the contactless terminal. Fortunately, there are a couple of useful tricks to help speed up the process.
- April 13, 2016
For security reasons, when you make certain requests of Siri — such as checking your email or unlocking a HomeKit door lock — she’ll respond that you need to unlock your iPhone first, usually presenting you with the keypad, so you can either punch in your passcode or use Touch ID to authenticate. However, if you often find yourself making these requests, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a way to do it a bit quicker, as long as you’re using a Touch ID-equipped iPhone.
If you’ve got an Apple Watch, you probably already know that you can use your wearable device as a camera remote to take pictures on your iPhone from your wrist, but you may not realize that it also makes a great way to keep an eye on what’s happening elsewhere in your home or nearby, directly from your wrist.
For example, you could leave your iPhone in a kid’s room to keep an eye on the youngsters while you’re busy with other household tasks, or check on the status of lights in the kitchen when trying to figure out which circuit breakers are which in the basement of your house. As the link between the iPhone and your Apple Watch is limited to the standard Bluetooth range of about 30 feet, you won’t be able to roam far, but it should work reasonably well in a small home or office setting.
- February 24, 2016
If you work or live in a noisy environment, have a hard time hearing your iPhone alerts, or simply want to take advantage of a cool iPhone case feature, you’ll likely appreciate the ability to have your iPhone light up its camera flash LED to let you know about incoming notifications. This feature is built into the iPhone, although it’s not located in an obvious place, as Apple designed it specifically for those users with hearing problems who may not be able to hear their iPhone ringing, even at the loudest volume. As a result, the setting lives not under Sounds or Notifications, where you might expect it to be, but in the Accessibility section, under Settings, General.
While iCloud backups provide a certain degree of convenience, many users will quickly go beyond the free 5GB of storage that Apple provides. Unless you’re already paying for more iCloud storage, or willing to shell out for a larger plan just for backups, you’ll be happy to know that iTunes still provides a handy alternative to keep your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch backed up to your Mac or PC, and in fact even has a key advantage over iCloud for transferring data to a new device.
Although you’ve been able to set your notifications to sort by date since the Notification Center first debuted back in iOS 5, all this option actually did was sort your apps by the date the last notification was received, grouping each notification under app-specific headings. Unfortunately, this didn’t provide an entirely chronological view of your notifications, since apps that had received several notifications over the course of a day would still have those older notifications grouped with it, above whichever app had displayed the second-most recent notification, and so forth.
In addition to renaming Passbook to the more appropriate name of Wallet, iOS 9 now makes it even easier to access your Apple Pay and other cards while your iPhone is locked. Simply double-tap the home button, and it will come up and be ready to go. Of course, you’ll still need to authenticate Apple Pay transactions using Touch ID, but the rest of your cards will be readily accessible for scanning without having to unlock your iPhone and open the Wallet app.
A subtle new feature that’s been added to the built-in Mail app in iOS 9 allows you to mark up PDF and image file attachments. With the built-in markup editor you can add lines, shapes, arrows, and even drop in your signature. As an added bonus, if you’ve created signatures in Preview on your Mac they’ll be automatically synced via iCloud (providing you’re signed into the same iCloud account on both devices) and available to use in the markup editor.
- October 15, 2015
When Apple debuted Visual Voicemail on the original iPhone in 2007, it introduced a whole new way to deal with voicemail messages, making the process about as seamless as working through an email inbox. Now iOS 9 takes these capabilities a step further, allowing you to not only browse through and listen to your messages, but to easily save and share them right from the Phone app.
When viewing your voicemail messages on your iPhone, you’ll see the standard “Share” button now appears in the top right corner right beside the info button. Tapping on this brings up the standard iOS Share Sheet, where you can share your voicemail message via email or iMessages, save it to the new iOS 9 Notes app, or even export it right into your Voice Memos app, Dropbox, Google Drive, or any other supported third-party app.
With iOS 9 you can now create reminders that are linked to content in other applications, such as a web page, email, contact, conversation in messages, or location in maps. Even better, many third-party apps also provide support for the same feature, allowing you to set reminders directly from those apps and then link back into where you were in the app, such as editing an image in Pixelmator, being reminded about a reading item in Pocket, or saving and pulling up a calculation in PCalc. Many of these links will even work on OS X El Capitan, provided you have the corresponding app installed on your Mac.
Although Apple first debuted iCloud Drive in iOS 8 last year, it was implemented merely as a hidden file system designed to be used only within apps specifically designed to support it; unlike on OS X Mavericks, there was no iOS-based option to directly browse through your iCloud drive, making it a completely impractical replacement for something like Dropbox or Google Drive. The good news is that Apple has opened this up with iOS 9 by adding a standalone, built-in iCloud Drive app, providing direct access to everything you have stored in iCloud Drive, along with some basic file organization and sharing features.
One of the smaller security features touted by Apple in the iOS 9 update was the move to requiring six-digit passcodes, rather than the default four-digit option that’s been around since the iPhone first debuted. While complex alphanumeric passwords have been available in iOS for years, most users found them to be too much trouble, so Apple reasoned that going from a four to a six-digit passcode was a more sensible compromise for improving security, particularly in an era of Touch ID devices, where the passcode rarely needs to be entered anyway.
The good news, however, is that while Apple encourages people to use a six-digit passcode by presenting it as the default option when setting up a new iOS device or even updating to iOS 9, you’re by no means limited to this option, and in fact iOS 9 now offers four different passcode/password configurations, rather than the four-digit code vs. password choice from prior versions. The option is a bit more hidden than it used to be, however; if you visit the Touch ID & Passcode section in the iOS Settings app, you’ll notice the former “Simple Passcode” option is nowhere to be found. Instead, a small blue link appears when you go to change your passcode, offering you the ability to switch to one of the other options: Custom Alphanumeric Code, Custom Numeric Code, 4-Digit Numeric Code, or 6-Digit Numeric Code (note that the current option isn’t shown here, as that’s what you’re already using).
Tapping on one of the options will change the passcode or password setting screen to use that format, so you can return to a four-digit passcode if that’s what you prefer, or if you want to get even more secure but don’t want to deal with a fully alphanumeric password, iOS 9 also offers the option of a “Custom Numeric Code” — you’ll get the numeric keypad instead of the full keyboard for passcode entry, but you can enter a string of numbers as long as you like.
The new “Low Power Mode” in iOS 9 is a pretty handy way to extend your battery life when you’re on the go; by throttling down your device’s CPU and suspending all background activity it lets you gain two to three extra hours in a pinch. You can turn it on manually by going into Settings, Battery or your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch will offer you the option to turn it on as part of the warnings you get when your battery drains to 20 percent, and again when it hits 10 percent (assuming it’s not already on). When Low Power Mode is engaged, the standard battery icon will turn yellow to remind you that you’re in this mode.
You can also leave your device in Low Power Mode when charging it back up, however it gets shut off automatically once you reach an 80 percent charge. You’ll get a lock screen notification when this happens, and if you like, you can re-engage Low Power Mode right from the lock screen by swiping right to left and tapping “Enable Again.” This can be useful if you’re in a hurry for your iPhone to charge up, as leaving it in Low Power Mode will let your device charge faster by consuming less power while it’s charging.
- September 29, 2015
When Apple introduced 60 fps video recording on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, it helpfully added a setting in iOS 8 to toggle it on and off. With the higher resolutions now offered by the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, iOS 9 expands these settings to provide even further control over both the recording resolution and frame rates.
One of the more subtle new features in iOS 9 is that you can now leverage Apple’s built-in iBooks app to save documents and web pages into PDF files. To access this, bring up the normal iOS 9 Share Sheet — the same one you would use to share something to Twitter or Facebook — and scroll over to the right side of the list and a “Save PDF to iBooks” option should appear.
Selecting the option will open iBooks and the document or web page you’re sharing should appear there as a PDF file in your iBooks library. From there you can organize it into a collection, print it, or send it out via email. Note that if you don’t see the “Save PDF to iBooks” option, tap “More” and ensure that it’s switched on in the list of sharing options. If it doesn’t appear in the “More” section, this means that the content type you’re sharing can’t be saved as a PDF.
A small but welcome enhancement in iOS 9 now allows you to use the “Return” key on an external keyboard to send messages, saving you the trouble of reaching for the screen to tap the “Send” button. Since most text messages don’t normally cross multiple paragraphs, this can help you keep a conversation going more fluidly, although OPT+ENTER can still be used to enter a new line if you want to do so. This also mirrors how the OS X version of the app works, providing more continuity when moving between your Mac and your iOS device. Best of all, even though the iPad got most of the new keyboard enhancements, this particular change works on the iPhone and iPod touch as well (thanks to Brad Joiner for the tip!)
Anybody who has ever lost contact or calendar items will appreciate a new feature that Apple has quietly added to iCloud. You can now restore individual iCloud Drive files or roll back to a previous set of contact or calendar data by logging into the iCloud web portal at www.icloud.com, selecting Settings and scrolling down to the “Advanced” section at the bottom.
The “Restore Files” option will allow you to restore any file deleted from iCloud Drive in the past 30 days. Each file is shown individually with the number of days remaining before it is permanently deleted. “Restore Contacts” and “Restore Calendars,” on the other hand, allow you to simply roll back entirely to a previous data set — there unfortunately isn’t any way to retrieve a specific individual contact record or calendar event. In fact, as the warnings on the “Restore Calendars” screen indicates, restoring to a previous calendar set will remove all sharing information, and cancel and re-send all shared appointment invitations, so the setting should be used with some caution. Mac users are likely far better off using Time Machine to restore lost Calendar or Contact dates. However, the iCloud options are useful as a last resort if no other backups are available.
If you’re looking for a single lost contact record, calendar event, or reminder, and have no other backups available, one workaround is to export your current contact or calendar data using the appropriate app. The iCloud Contacts web app allows vCards to be exported from its Settings menu (the gear icon in the bottom right), and you can export a single VCF file containing all of your contacts by selecting all of them before using the export option. For Calendar export, Mac users can use the native OS X Calendar app, while Windows users will have to resort to syncing data via Outlook or Windows Calendar. Once you’ve backed up your current data, you can then use the iCloud rollback to restore the previous data set and then reimport your contact and calendar data to merge it with the restored information.
The “Do Not Disturb” feature in iOS can be very useful for keeping your iPhone from bothering you with notifications at inappropriate times, such as when you’re in a meeting or while you’re sleeping. By default, however, notifications are only suppressed when you’re not actively using your device – that is, when the screen is off and the device is basically in sleep mode.
However, if you’d prefer to keep your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch silent at all times when Do Not Disturb is enabled, you can find a setting tucked away at the bottom of the Do Not Disturb section in the Settings app that will suppress all notifications. Simply select “Always” in the “Silence” section and all alerts will be suppressed, even the banners and pop-ups that come up while you’re using your device. You can still find these hidden alerts in your Notification Centre, but you won’t have them getting in your way or making your device vibrate or make noise. This can be handy when you’re using your device in a very quiet environment, or even if you simply want to play a game without risking alert banners popping in from the top and distracting you.
The introduction of Apple Music and iCloud Music Library in iOS 8.4, like iTunes Match before it, effectively places your entire iTunes music library and more at your fingertips, rather than only the music you’ve chosen to sync to your device directly from iTunes. You can still explicitly download tracks simply by tapping on the option button beside a song, album, or playlist and choosing “Make available offline,” however anything that hasn’t been downloaded and stored on your device will be streamed from Apple’s servers. If you find this selection to be a bit overwhelming, or simply want to stick to locally stored music to save on cellular data bandwidth, you can easily filter your “My Music” section to only show music that’s actually been downloaded to your device.
From the “My Music” screen, tap on the header above your album, track, or playlist listing, and down at the bottom you’ll see a toggle to Show Music Available Offline. Turning this on will immediately filter your library to show only those tracks that are stored on your device. This also happens automatically if you put your iPhone in Airplane Mode or are otherwise away from a cellular or Wi-Fi data connection. Unfortunately, this doesn’t affect playlists – you’ll still see all of them listed, even those that don’t contain any downloaded tracks.
Did you know that you can now activate Siri by simply saying “Hey Siri” while your iPhone is plugged in? To enable this feature, just go into Settings, General, Siri and ensure “Allow Hey Siri” is toggled on. The feature was first introduced in iOS 8 last fall but has been improved through each update, and with recent versions you can now even simply state your whole request without pausing after the opening line – for example, “Hey Siri wake me up in 15 minutes.”
The only catch is that your iPhone has to be connected to power for this to work, which is probably a reasonable compromise both in terms of preserving battery life (since your iPhone has to keep the mic on and listening for the phrase all the time), and also limiting instances of accidental activation. Should Siri ever wake up accidentally, or if you change your mind, you can also dismiss Siri with a phrase such as “never mind” or “go away.”
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